Case: KONE – New business by exploring the future of sustainable and resilient urban living


KONE wanted to identify new business opportunities, make timely business decisions and develop its foresight capabilities. To achieve these aims, KONE partnered with VTT to explore future trends in urban living. The project gave KONE tools and capabilities to further develop their foresight function internally and improved the company’s thought leadership in urban living.

Key findings

60+ identified trends and six key drivers discussed and validated with 21 national and international expert interviews.

Illustrated the future of living with four scenarios described in detail at city, neighbourhood, building and user levels.

Improved KONE’s foresight capabilities and understanding of the future of sustainable and resilient urban living.

KONE, a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, operates in over 60 countries and serves over 550,000 customers worldwide. In an increasingly urbanising world, KONE has a mission to improve the flow of urban life.

Understanding how people will use buildings and city environments in the future

Sustainable transformation has paramount effects on how we live, what we value, and what is expected from our surroundings in a constantly urbanising world. Similarly, the fundamental role cities and urban areas play in people’s lives offers possibilities for increasing sustainability. This is why we first need to understand the shifts in urban living to fulfil the needs of the future and to actively steer companies’ efforts towards sustainable living in urban conditions.

To be ready for the change, KONE sought more understanding of the future of cities, buildings and urban living. KONE was looking to feed its business decision-making, marketing and innovation with foresight knowledge. The company also wanted to create opportunities beyond its existing business. However, creating impact with foresight knowledge, both internally and externally, was a challenge.

This is where VTT came in.

Urban city landscape with road cars and high rise buildings

A winning combination of research, evaluations, and discussions

The project started with a scanning phase where VTT’s foresight experts identified mid- and long-term opportunities and risks affecting the future of living in urban environments. Information was gathered from a wide range of literary sources. VTT prioritised trends with the VTT FutureRadar process and categorised them using the PESTEL framework. This framework is used to assess the development of the business environment from political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal perspectives.

Based on close cooperation between VTT’s experts and KONE’s foresight team, the trends were clustered into six key drivers, underpinning topics or themes that combine multiple related trends and aim at describing a holistic change. The trends and drivers were further discussed and validated in interviews with 21 national and international experts in the field of urban environment.

KONE used the extensive future scanning work to create four future scenarios for urban living in close collaboration with VTT’s team. The development of the scenarios was aligned with the customer’s focal questions and certain themes that were considered important to assess alongside alternative futures. The scenarios predicted alternative futures in 2040 and described them illustratively at city, neighbourhood, building and user levels.

The project was based on workshops to involve units across KONE. The workshops, which focused on VTT FutureRadar, the drivers, and the scenarios, aimed at allowing the KONE experts to prioritise and discuss the opportunities and implications of the findings for decision-making.

Our collaboration with VTT helped our strategic foresight team to learn new methods and gain valuable perspectives for our cross-functional innovation and strategy work.
Jaana Hyvärinen, Strategic foresight Team Leader, KONE

VTT’s foresight experts always aim to tackle challenges together with customers by generating actionable and knowledge-driven insights. In this project, KONE had a dedicated team working in close collaboration with VTT throughout the project, starting from the phase of environmental scanning all the way to forming the scenarios.

“At KONE we appreciate that a more sustainable future is created together, and therefore constantly look for ways to work together with customers and partners. Our collaboration with VTT helped our strategic foresight team to learn new methods and gain valuable perspectives for our cross-functional innovation and strategy work,” says Jaana Hyvärinen, Strategic foresight team leader at KONE.

“In our projects, we want customers to learn new ways to use the generated foresight knowledge as a relevant part of their processes and decision-making. We also support our customers in fostering and widening their own foresight capabilities throughout the organisation,” Maaria Nuutinen, Senior Principal Scientist at VTT, explains.

Developing KONE’s foresight capabilities and organisational decision-making

The continuous collaboration allowed for learning through action, as the VTT and KONE teams used a wide range of foresight methods in practice. Along with enhancing its visibility into the business landscape, KONE now also has the capability to repeat the foresight process independently.

Based on the project results, we have started multiple research and innovation projects with other companies and research organisations.
Jaana Hyvärinen, Strategic foresight Team Leader, KONE

As a result of the project, KONE has increased its understanding of detecting emerging business opportunities, in addition to creating impact with foresight knowledge both internally and externally.

“This is a great example of futures making. As a company moving 1 billion people every day globally, we have a major impact on the lives of urban dwellers. In our strategic foresight work, we wanted to identify the right questions to ask, and to listen to both internal stakeholders and our customers and partners. VTT’s framework was founded on credible data and academic research to help us navigate a complex topic. Based on the project results, we have started multiple research and innovation projects with other companies and research organisations," says Hyvärinen.

Woman and man working together

Mutual trust ensures a smooth process

The project consisted of multiple phases, each phase building on the previous one. In total, the project lasted for almost a year, which provided a great opportunity to take an extensive look into the future of sustainable and resilient urban living. This also allowed for using multiple foresight methods and engaging actors widely within the process.

“We truly worked as one team with VTT. The close cooperation enabled mutual learning, and I greatly appreciate the flexibility and expertise of VTT's team at all stages of the project," says Hyvärinen.

“It was extremely inspiring to dive deeper into the urban futures of living with KONE's experts. Exploring even better ways of doing foresight and deploying foresight knowledge with a pioneering company that has vast experience in doing foresight was very interesting,” Nuutinen concludes.

The collaboration between VTT and KONE continues further in the ongoing Strategic Foresight for Sustainable Innovation and Growth research project, which focuses on developing the participating companies’ organisational capabilities and practices for anticipation and utilisation of future opportunities. VTT and KONE are also continuing their collaboration in the Sustainable3 Futures co-research project that focuses on collaborative endeavours towards sustainable future urban living, paying special attention to social sustainability.

Maaria Nuutinen
Maaria Nuutinen
Senior Principal Scientist
Pekka Vesikko
Pekka Vesikko
Head of Sales and Customer Partnerships
Our vision beyond 2030

With energy-efficient built environment future living will be carbon-free.